Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

Image of the Month

February 2018 [Posted June 2018]

  • Title: Herr Wernher von Teufen or Man and woman with a hawk
  • Creator:
  • Description:

    This is a miniature from the Manesse Codex. The Codex was created in 1300, and then supplemented in 1340 with a few extra pages of poems. The Manesse Codex, also known as the Great Heidelberg Book of Songs, is the most comprehensive collection of ballads and epigrammatic poetry written in Middle High German. It was compiled mostly by Rüdiger Manesse of Zurich, and his son. The Codex contained 6,000 verses written by 140 poets beginning with secular songs from 1150/60 all the way up to 1300, and a few addenda from 1340. There are no melody notations; however, there are 138 colorful miniatures dedicated to 137 of the poets, with each poet participating in courtly activities. These miniatures were created by 4 different illustrators and arrange the images of poets in order of their social rank.

    The miniature depicts a man and woman on horseback. The man seems to be entranced by the woman while she is riding side saddle, carrying a falcon on her arm. Presumably they are out hunting with falcons in the countryside, an activity that was reserved for individuals of high status. While the woman remains anonymous, the man can be identified as Wernher von Teufen, one of the poets recorded in the Manesse Codex. Although there are many miniatures depicting the sport of falconry, few images depict a woman holding the falcon.

    Falconry was a popular activity for the upper echelons of medieval society. It was an expensive sport known for being both time-consuming and a marker of status. In the medieval period, a good quality falcon was very valuable, and could cost a significant portion of a knight's yearly income. Falcons were prized for being highly trained and a key part of an important courtly ritual. It did not matter what kind of game they were able to catch.

    It was not unheard of for high-born women to fly falcons during the medieval period. They flew them with other women, or with their husbands or lovers. Hunting too was not beyond the realm of possibility for medieval women. Some women even rode out on hunts for deer and boars. Falconry was such a common occurrence for women that the seals of noblewomen often portrayed ladies engaging in it. A love of falconry, regardless of a person's sex, was seen as an innate characteristic of noble lineage.

    Because of its prominence as a part of courtly life, falconry was an important symbol in medieval art. It was fairly commonplace to make a comparison between a knightly hero and a bird of prey. More importantly, though, falconry and falcons were frequently associated with love. Falconry was an activity that could be undertaken by lovers. The act of a falcon in pursuit of prey was often compared to the pursuit of a woman by a man wherein the man is the falcon and the woman is the prey. An image of a pair of lovers holding a falcon is often a covert symbol for sexual relations. Falconry was also associated with courtly love because it was such an important characteristic of courtly life. However, in this image the woman is holding the hawk while Wernher von Teufen embraces her lovingly. This gives the woman the power in this relationship and perhaps implies that she was either of higher status or the hunter with the poet as her prey.

  • Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Rights: Public domain
  • Subject (See Also): Codex Manesse Courtly Love Falcon, Image of Heraldry Hunting Minnesang, Literary Genre Sexuality
  • Geographic Area: Germany
  • Century: 14
  • Date: ca. 1305-1340
  • Related Work: Codex Manesse. See the full text of the manuscript on the University of Heidelberg site;
    Courting couple with young man holding a hawk on his wrist, ivory mirror case, Cambridge, The Fitzwilliam Museum M.25-1933;
    Lady with her hawk hunting a hare, Taymouth Hours, Yates Thompson MS 13, f. 74r.
  • Current Location: Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. Pal. germ. 848, 69r
  • Original Location: Zurich, Switzerland
  • Artistic Type (Category): Digital images; Manuscript Illuminations
  • Artistic Type (Material/Technique): Vellum (parchment); Paint
  • Donor: Laymen; Aristocrat Rüdiger Manesse and his son Johannes Manesse
  • Height/Width/Length(cm): 35.5/25/
  • Inscription: Her Wernher von Teufen XXVI
  • Related Resources: Codex Manesse. University Library of Universität Heidelberg. 2015;
    Cummins, John. The Hound and the Hawk: The Art of Medieval Hunting. St. Martin's Press, 1988;
    Hope, Henry. "Miniatures, Minnesänger, Music: the Codex Manesse" In Manuscripts and Medieval Song: Inscription, Performance, Context. Ed. Helen Deeming and Elizabeth Eva Leach. Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pages 163-192;
    Marvin, William P. "Hunting and Falconry." Women and Gender in Medieval Europe. Ed. Margaret Schaus. Routledge, 2006;
    Oggins, Robin S. The Kings and Their Hawks: Falconry in Medieval England. Yale University Press, 2004;
    Standley, ELeanor. "Ladies Hunting: A Late Medieval Decorated Mirror Case from Shapwick Somerset." Antiquaries Journal 88 (November 2008): 198-206.

The Feminae database presents images of medieval art with descriptions, data, and subject indexing. Each thumbnail picture has a link to a higher quality image often with a zoom view and added content from a museum. Images included represent women and gender 450 to 1500 C.E. in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Beginning in June 2012 we have highlighted each month a newly added image that is rich in documentary evidence or iconographic significance.

As images build up in the database, users can browse for aggregated evidence. The Donor field groups people together in the categories layman/men, laywoman/women, female religious and male religious. The Current Location field allows users to see artwork that is all housed in the same museum. Image records are integrated with all the other Feminae content, so that a search on Mary Magdalen will include results for essays, journal articles, translations, book reviews, and images (which come at the end of the list which is sorted by date). Feminae Research Assistants

Bill Ristow is working on manuscript images during the 2015-16 academic year. He is majoring in history and writing his senior thesis on medieval kingship with reference to Wace's Roman de Rou and Henry II.

Rachel Davies worked on the brass rubbings during the 2013 summer session for the exhibit Lasting Impressions. During 2015-16 she is concentrating on entries concerning Spanish art.

Leigh Peterson worked on images during the Fall 2012 through Spring 2015 academic years. She was an undergraduate student who majored in art history at Bryn Mawr College. She was an intern at the Cloisters Museum during summer 2013.

Shannon Steiner added images during the summer and fall of 2013. Shannon is a doctoral student in History of Art at Bryn Mawr College. She holds a B.A. from Temple University (2009) and M.A.s from The University of Texas at Austin (2011) and Bryn Mawr College (2013). Her research focuses on the visual culture of saints' cults and the role of art in forming community and gender identities in Byzantium.

Sarah Celentano worked on the initial 300 image records. She is a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on the visual culture of female monastic communities with a specialization in twelfth-century German-speaking areas. Her dissertation, "Embodied Reading as Political Action in the Hortus deliciarum," will explore the textual and visual responses in the twelfth-century Hortus deliciarum to papal schism and imperial challenges to Church authority. Additional areas of examination will be the use of medieval mnemonic techniques, and conduits of artistic exchange between northern and southern Europe.